All year long the editors of Tools of the Trade look for new tools and technologies that will help tradesmen do their jobs better, faster, and more easily—and then recognize the best with Editors’ Choice Awards. To that end we attend tradeshows and media events, scan social media and the web, and stay in close contact with the people and companies that develop new tools.

We can’t include every tool or product that drew our attention since last year, but here are 12 we’d like to showcase. Some are new-to-market concepts, some improve on an existing technology, and all are worthy of special recognition.

DeWalt 12-inch Cordless Miter Saw

DeWalt’s new 12-inch dual compound sliding miter saw (DHS790) can be powered by batteries or run from a cord. Cordless power is provided by two of the company’s new FlexVolt packs, oversize batteries that are backwards compatible with most 20V MAX products. When used in 20V MAX tools they put out 20 volts max (18 volts nominal) and are rated 6.0 or 9.0 Ah; in FlexVolt tools they put out 60 volts max (54 volts nominal) and are rated 2.0 or 3.0 Ah. The saw uses two batteries so it’s referred to as 120V MAX. With the batteries swapped for a corded adapter the saw can be run on 120 volts AC—an important first for a benchtop machine. It can cut up to 16 inches on the flat and 6 3/4 inches on edge. Using the lower capacity FlexVolt battery it is said to cut 244 2x4s per charge. Lighter than most 12-inch machines, it weighs 56 pounds with batteries. Features are the same as those of the company’s corded SCMS and include sliding fences, a shadow line cut indicator, and an adjustable miter detent plate. Price: $649 with adapter only; $799 with charger, adapter, and two 6.0 Ah batteries.

M18 FUEL™ 10" Dual Bevel Sliding
Compound Miter Saw
M18 FUEL™ 10" Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw

Milwaukee 10-inch Cordless Miter Saw

Milwaukee recently announced a cordless dual compound slide miter saw (2473) with a brushless motor and 10-inch blade. It can be powered by any existing M18 battery, though it works best with the company’s new oversize High Demand battery pack. The machine can cut 2x12 on the flat and 5 3/4 inches vertically against the fence. When powered by a 9.0 Ah High Demand pack (also available at 6.0 Ah) it is said to make 400 cuts in 3 1/2-inch pine base per charge or 300 plus cuts in 2x4. The saw has a rated speed of 4,000 RPM and at 47 pounds with battery, is several pounds lighter than the average 10-inch corded model. Its features are in line with those of other high-end machines and include a shadow line cut indicator, detent override, and an easy-to-reach paddle lock for the bevel mechanism. Price: $549 bare; $649 with a charger and one 9.0 Ah battery.

Festool HK 55 and HKC 55 Circular Saws

Carpenters who frame and do exterior trim will be interested in these new saws from Festool. Unlike the company’s plunge cutting models, these can be used freehand, like standard circular saws. But they can also be used with tracks, the familiar FS tracks used with the company's track saws and a new spring-loaded FSK track designed for quick and accurate cross-cutting of angles up to 60 degrees. Angles are set by adjusting a stop on the bottom of the track. Cutting is a matter of placing the saw on the stock, butting the stops to the edge, and then sliding forward on the rail. When the saw is lifted at the end of the cut the track automatically springs back to the starting position, so precise cuts can be made in rapid succession. FSK rails are available in three different lengths for cuts up to 10, 16.5, and 24 inches across. Price: $440 corded; $560 corded with 16.5-inch capacity FSK rail; $375 cordless bare; $690 cordless in two battery kit with 16.5-inch capacity FSK rail.

Ridgid Palm Impact Screwdriver

The R8224 is an impact driver with the form factor of a palm nailer. As such, it’s compact enough for use in tight quarters, where other drivers would be difficult or impossible to use. There’s no handle, just a motor, 12-volt max battery, and hex chuck. The motor is activated by pressing the bit into the fastener; the harder you push the faster it goes. Because the tool is grasped directly behind the bit you can apply enough pressure to prevent cam outs without resorting to a two-handed grip. The tool produces 400 inch-pounds of torque and spins up to 2,000 rpm. Features include a rubberized grip, forward/reverse switch, and an LED light. Price: $99 for kit with tool, charger, and 1.5 Ah battery.


Grex Cordless Brad Nailer

Plenty of companies make 18-gauge cordless brad nailers but none are quite like Grex’s new C1850. A fuel powered model, it’s smaller and lighter than all others, including the one from Paslode. Fuel and air mix in a “swirl chamber” so there’s no need for a fan, which reduces electrical draw and allows for a tool that is short top-to-bottom. Electrical power is provided by a pair of standard AA batteries, which are said to provide 50,000 shots. The fuel cells have no expiration date and according to their maker produce minimal smell and last 1,300-1,400 shots. Depth-of-drive is adjusted by turning a dial that raises or lowers driving power. The gun takes 1/2- to 2-inch fasteners and can drive up to 60 per minute without overheating. The C1850 weighs 4.4 pounds and is rated for use between 10 and 100 degrees F and up to 6,500 feet in elevation. Price: $499; 4-pack of fuel cells $25.

Chris Ermides

Dustless Drywall Sanding System

Full Circle International (FCI) recently released the Radius 360 Air, a dustless variant of its popular Radius 360 pole sander. It comes in a kit with a hose, hollow pole assembly, abrasives, FlexAir detail sander, and adapters for connecting the hose to the vacuum or dust collector you already own. The head takes the same 8.75-inch diameter hook-and-loop abrasive used with the original pole sander. Dust is collected at the edge of the paper by a spring-loaded shroud and travels to the vac through the hollow swivel and pole. Unlike competing products, where a standard swivel is shrouded by a rubber boot, the hollow swivel has a full range of motion. The kit includes two swivels, one for a pole and another for dustless sanding without a pole. The swivels are easily removed and installed, and can be swapped between the Radius 360 Air and FlexAir detail sander. Price: $189.

SureCan Gas Can

Many have tried to develop easier-to-use gas cans but few have succeeded like the makers of SureCan. Instead of tipping to pour, a spout pivots down from the bottom and fuel drains directly into the tank being filled. Flow is controlled by a thumb-operated trigger that opens and closes an internal valve. Push all the way down and fuel is quickly dispensed; push part way down and it dispenses more slowly. Release the trigger and the flow stops as the spring-loaded valve snaps shut. When the trigger’s depressed a vent pops open to prevent glugging and the likelihood of spills. Made from blow molded HDPE the can has Viton valve seals and double O-rings to prevent the joint between spout and can from leaking. SureCan is currently undergoing testing for CARB compliance in California, and is already sold in other states. Cans are available for gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. Price: 2.5-gallon model $25; 5-gallon models $50.

Louisville FXS1500 Series Ladder

At first glance this looks like any other fiberglass step ladder, until you see the angled corners and notch in the top. The shape of the top allows you to lean the folded ladder into inside corners or onto outside corners and posts—without fear of sliding. A latch keeps the legs closed when the ladder is being leaned; in the open position it works like a regular step ladder. The aluminum steps are heavily braced and the top has rubber bumpers and is shaped to hold tools and fasteners. These Type 1A (300 lb. rating) ladders are available in 4-12 foot sizes. Price $100 to $325.

Klein Hollow Handle Magnetic Nut Drivers

It’s hard to improve on most hand tools but Klein did just that when designing their new line of heavy duty nut drivers. The shafts and handles are hollow so the tools won’t bottom out when accessing nuts in from the end of a bolt or piece of threaded rod. Stubborn nuts can be coaxed along by grasping the flats on the shaft with a wrench and using it to apply extra torque. The end of the drivers are magnetized and will hold nuts until they have been threaded on or hold the tool in place should you need to let go of it. To make it easier to select the right driver from a pouch, the ends of the grips are color coded and marked with the size of the driver: ¼-in, 5/16-in., 3/8-in., 7/16-in., ½-in. or 9/16-in.

Price: $13-20 for individual drivers; 4-piece set $55; 6-piece set $80.

Knaack ThermoSteel Heated Storage

What’s cool about Knaack’s ThermoSteel Storagemaster boxes isn’t cool at all; it’s warm, as in an internal compartment that keeps paint, caulk, adhesive, and tool batteries from freezing in cold weather. The system consists of a heating element and heating blanket that attach to the underside and front of the Tool Kage storage compartment found in certain Knaack boxes. The power cord passes out through a grommet in the side of the box. When the system is plugged in it keeps the contents of the Tool Kage at or around 70 degrees in weather as cold as 0 degrees F. No doubt, the rest of the box stays warmer too. ThermoSteel is an option on model 79 and 89 piano boxes and will be available for retrofit later this year. Price: $300-$350 upcharge in new boxes; $250 for retrofit kit.

Makita 1/2-inch Brushless Impact Wrench

Cordless impact drivers are fine for medium-duty work but the tool of choice for really tough jobs is an impact wrench. Until recently, the most powerful such tools have been pneumatic or corded. Makita’s new 18-volt cordless high torque impact wrench (XWT08) offers comparable power without the need for a hose or cord. Intended for use by steel and iron workers, mechanics, and carpenters doing heavy construction, it produces whopping 740 ft-lbs. of torque and 1,180 ft-lbs. of breakaway torque. The tool weighs 7.9 pounds with battery and has a brushless motor, 1/2-inch anvil with friction ring, and dual LED lights. A switch on the base allows the operator to match the tool’s performance to the job, with speed/power settings of 0-900; 0-1,100; and 0-1,800 RPM. Price: $239 bare; $449 in a kit with a charger and two 4.0 Ah batteries.

Bosch/Fein Starlock Interface

Bosch and Fein teamed up to develop Starlock, a new 3d interface for oscillating tools. With a greater area of contact at the connection point, the new accessory interface will reduce slippage and wear—allowing for better power transmission, larger blades, and more powerful OMTs going forward. There are three “levels” of blade: Starlock, StarlockPlus, and StarlockMax. Blades are “upwardly” compatible to prevent them from being used with tools that lack the power to drive them without being damaged. Starlock tools will accept Starlock blades only. StarlockPlus tools will accept Starlock and StarlockPlus. The most powerful tools—StarlockMax—will accept all three types of blades. Starlock accessories will be backward compatible with tools that accept the “multi-mount” pattern that combines the 12 holes of Bosch OIC accessories with the star shaped hole of the Fein Multimaster—a group that includes most existing OMTs, but not DeWalt/Porter-Cable, Dremel, or Fein Supercut blade mounts. Price: varies.